Mission AZ proving that girls can thrive on co-ed youth teams
Mission AZ hockey iced nine teams during the 2017-18 season, and while none of them were girls squads, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of talented female players within the program.
To the contrary, Mission’s director of hockey operations, Jeremy Goltz, said there are a large number of girls thriving in the organization playing on co-ed teams.
“We’re a little bit on an anomaly not only in the sheer number of girls we have playing on mixed teams in our program, but the age levels that they’re competing at,” Goltz said, noting that last year Mission had six girls playing on Mite, Squirt and Pee Wee teams, plus two at the Bantam AA level, two on their Bantam A team and one on their 16U A squad. “Usually at the Bantam level, girls move on from playing on boys teams.
“The women’s game at the higher levels can be considered more skill-based and doesn’t have the same aggressiveness as the boys game, but what I have realized from watching my own daughter and the other girls in our program compete on boys teams is that their intensity and the thought process they go through on the ice is just so high playing at that level. We’re looking at the potential of three girls playing on our 16U team next year, which we’ve never had in our history.”
Many of Mission’s female hockey players said they have been playing on boys teams since they first laces up their skates, and while plenty of other players move on to join girls teams when they hit their teenage years, the girls in the Mission program look at it differently.
“I will play with boys until I absolutely need to leave,” Reese Middendorf said. “A lot of girls don’t like to play on boys teams when they get to the 16U level because they are scared of getting hit or getting hurt. However, if you play scared, then you won’t be able to grow as a hockey player or be able to get to your highest potential. I came to Mission two years ago and it has by far the greatest boys team I’ve played for.”
Payton Goltz – a defenseman who played Bantam AA last season – wants to play Division I college hockey and sees playing on co-ed teams as the best way to prepare herself to get there and for the competition she would face.
“I like playing on boys teams because it pushes me to hit a different level and pace than you might see in girls hockey, especially once I hit Bantams with physicality,” she said. “There’s also a really great team dynamic with the boys. They don’t really care that you’re a girl and treat you just like any other teammate.
“I think that playing boys will keep giving me that extra edge in my play. I’ve played boys my whole life, and I’ve had some exposure to playing with girls – I can definitely say that I’m way happier playing on boys teams, especially at Mission. There’s such a family dynamic and you’re treated like any other player, and all the guys will respect you as a player regardless of the fact that you’re a girl. You never feel like you don’t belong.”
Hannah Schneidmiller said she relishes the opportunity to play with and against the fastest, strongest and most skilled players her age. Because Mission creates such a welcoming atmosphere for female players, she has never seriously considered any other option.
“I think playing against boys will help me achieve my goals or improving my skills and playing college hockey,” she said. “They will push me and provide good competition for me to become a lot better as a goalie.
“Playing with and against boys pushes me to get better, and Mission does a good job of making me feel equal to other players.”
— Greg Ball
(April 30, 2018)